Oct. 31 2009 12:00 AM

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero was endorsed Thursday by a pastor with unfavorable views toward homosexuals, but Bernero campaign denies knowing

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is known as a friend of the LGBT community, but in a Thursday endorsement, the mayor prominently featured a local pastor with anti-gay views.

The Rev. Charles Bicey, of Lansing’s New Jerusalem Church, was quoted twice in a press release sent out by the Bernero campaign Thursday that described the mayor as having received the support of 24 local pastors.
Todd Heywood, a reporter for the Michigan Messenger Web site, wrote in a blog that in 1989 he was prayed over in Bicey’s church to cure him of being gay.

“Bicey believes that gay folks can be healed of their homosexuality. I know, because when I was teenager, I was taken to his church and (was) subjected to a healing,” wrote Heywood, who says he endorses neither Bernero nor his challenger, Carol Wood. “Standing up on the stage that day, with (Bicey’s) wife on one side of me, and another church member on the other, both whispering in the name of Jesus into my ear, while Bicey himself thwacked my (sic) forward rebuking the demons, was in some ways both a defining moment in my reconciliation for my own sexuality and faith, but also a deeply shameful experience. I admit, I am embarrassed I allowed myself to be convinced that Jesus and God would not love me for who I was.”

Bernero’s campaign released a statement Friday, but campaign manager Patrick McAlvey, who has come out as a victim of an “ex-gay” ministry, would not answer further questions about Bicey.

“Neither Mayor Bernero nor our campaign were aware of Pastor Bicey’s views and if they are as claimed of course Mayor Bernero strongly disagrees with him,” McAlvey wrote in an email. “Mayor Bernero remains committed, as he always has, to the LGBT community and values his role as an advocate and ally. To his credit, Pastor Bicey has endorsed a mayoral candidate who strongly supports the rights of the LGBT community.  Mayor Bernero looks forward to talking to Pastor Bicey at his next opportunity to find out for himself where he stands on LGBT issues.”

When reached Friday morning, Bicey said that he does not host “ex-gay” ministries — where churches try to “cure” gays and lesbians — and does not exclude gays from his church because it gives him an opportunity to pray for them to be saved from their lifestyle.

In general, Bicey said, he does not approve of homosexuality, especially in marriage, because of scripture in the Bible.

Heywood said that he witnessed Bicey support the 1996 referendum that repealed the human rights ordinance passed by the Lansing City Council made sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class in Lansing.
Bicey denied being involved in such efforts.

Recently, McAlvey circulated a flyer at a gay networking event in Lansing that called out Wood for opposing the 1996 referendum.